I propose to take Question Nos. 18 and 40 together.
The Wind Energy Planning Guidelines were developed by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government in 2006 to offer advice to planning authorities with regard to their preparation of Development Plans and their consideration of applications for planning permission from wind farm developers. The Guidelines were issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, which requires both planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála to have regard to these guidelines in the performance of their functions.
However, since 2006 there have been a number of new developments: wind turbine technologies have evolved; experience has been gained from applying the current guidelines; new research has been undertaken internationally on wind turbine noise; and the EU has set legally binding targets for renewable energy for Member States by 2020. Ireland must achieve 16% of all energy from renewable sources by 2020. In order to achieve this, Ireland is committed to ensuring that 40% of electricity is generated from renewable sources by 2020.
In light of the above, and in order to ensure that Ireland continues to meet its renewable energy targets, while at the same time ensuring that wind energy does not have negative impacts on local communities, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government – in conjunction with my Department and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland – is undertaking a targeted review of certain aspects of the existing Wind Energy Planning Guidelines. This review will examine the manner in which the Guidelines address key issues such as noise (including separation distance) and shadow flicker. It is expected that revised guidelines will be published for consultation later this year, with a view to the finalisation of the new guidelines in the first half of 2014.
The development and operation of a wind farm in Ireland requires planning permission from the relevant planning authority. The issue of planning permission is a matter between the developer of a wind farm and the relevant planning authority, subject to the Planning Acts, which include requirements for public consultation. I do not have a role with regard to the permitting of wind farms.